The UC San Diego Men’s Ultimate team, the Air Squids, traveled to Santa Cruz this past weekend to compete in the Sean Ryan Memorial Tournament. The Squids were seeded 5th out of 12 teams going into the weekend but were determined to prove that they were not a fluke team last season. A solid returning core, and a host of new players with lots of potential made the Squids a daunting task for the teams in their pool which included UCSC, Chico St., and Humboldt St.
In the first game against Chico the Squids came out ready to play and were led by captain Guy Hughes and graduate student Brooks Taylor. Both were confident with the disc and made it their responsibility to dictate the play on the field. In his first game ever, rookie Shreyes Boddu came up with a huge defensive play in a tight spot. The Chico “Hops” showed though that their program has improved over recenet years and gave the Squids a late scare. Fortunately, the Squids snuck out with a 13-11 win.
Next up was Humboldt St. and the game started off with Humboldt taking control. Their zone gave some of the most experienced (however rusty from the offseason) throwers some headaches, but once the Squids were able to figure it out, they surged back. Thanks to multiple scores from senior leader Josh Nickerson and rookie Sean O’Donnell stepping up, the Squids were able to squeak out another close win, 11-10.
The final game of the day was against the No. 2 overall seed, host team UC Santa Cruz. The winner would win our pool and although there was a lot of fire for the first part of the game, the Squids were not able to overcome a plethora of mistakes from veteran players. The lack of early season conditioning was also apparent and despite big defensive play from rookies Aaron Lee and Albert Lee, the Slugs from Santa Cruz were able to capitalize on more turnovers than the Squids and won decisively 13-7.
Finishing 2nd in their Saturday pool, the Airsquids were matched up against northwest powerhouse Stanford for their quarterfinals game on Sunday. Having only beat Stanford once in Squid history, the team came out fired up. With a few veteran D’s coming from grad student Patrick Metz, UCSD easily went up 7-5 at the end of the first half. Stanford’s disciplined offense and a few Airsquids mistakes let them come back in the second half to tie it up at 12-12. However, UCSD would not settle for a loss, and after a savage defensive stand, Josh Nickerson caught the final goal with a grab over 2 Stanford players, Airsquid victory 13-12.
For the semifinal game, UCSD played against southwest regional rival, the Claremont Braineaters. With the wind picking up, both teams started the game easily trading points. Claremont rapidly moved the disc up the field with short quick passes while the squids lengthened the field, with Stephen Hubbard throwing deep bombs to the big receivers. Once again, the squids found themselves playing a close game, down 11-10 with only 5 minutes to go. And once again, UCSD proved that they wanted it more, quickly tying the game up 11-11 and pulling to the Braineaters. Claremont crumbled under the defensive pressure, missing a pass at half field. The Airsquids capitalized, securing a place in the finals with a 12-11 win.
The final game gave the Airsquids a second chance against UC Santa Cruz. This time, the squids came out swinging. With solid offense by Sophomore Murphy Hitchcock and Nicholas Miller, UCSD kept pace with Santa Cruz, trailing by only one point at halftime. Unfortunately, the UCSC defense proved too much in the second half, and with energy flagging, the Squids offense made a few mistakes that cost them. Unable to make a comeback, the game was ended 12-8 UCSC. Even with this loss, the UCSD Airsquids placed 2nd overall in the tournament, proving that they are a team to be reckoned with for the coming season.